INFORMATIONAL MESSAGE: Tornado Warnings and What to Do

UNC Students, Faculty and Staff:

This is Severe Weather Preparedness Week in North Carolina—a state-wide initiative that focuses on emergency planning and what to do when a tornado is imminent. As you know, we already had one such event in February and, according to the National Weather Service, in 2015 a total of 25 tornado warnings and 528 severe thunderstorm warnings were issued in the state.

Tornado Warning

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted or radar indicates the presence of a thunderstorm circulation that could result in a tornado. When a tornado warning is issued for this area, the university’s sirens will sound.

When you hear the sirens please take immediate action:

  • If you are outside, immediately seek shelter in a sturdy building.
  • If you are inside, move to an interior room on the lowest floor.
  • Avoid windows.
  • If no shelter is available, lie down in a low-lying area.
  • Protect yourself from flying debris.
  • Do not proceed to a class or other activity until you hear the All Clear siren.

Other notifications: Alert Carolina sends a text message to registered cell phones and starts other notifications including campus e-mails.

An All Clear siren will sound after the threat has passed. The university sends a text message to registered cell phones and starts other All Clear notifications.

Tornado Watch

If the weather service issues a tornado watch for Orange County, the university sends a text message, campus e-mail and starts other notifications. A watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. The sirens do NOT sound for a tornado watch.

Check Alert Carolina ( for additional, UNC-Chapel Hill specific information. This site is updated as more information becomes available during severe weather situations.

About Informational Messages: The university sends an Informational Message to inform the campus community about a situation that is not an emergency, but is expected to be of significant interest to the campus. An Informational Message is one of three tiers of communication under the university’s emergency communications plan. Sponsored by the UNC Department of Public Safety.